Paris - Thousands of kilometres from the bright lights of Melbourne and the
stars on display at the Australian Open, the "scourge" of match-fixing
in tennis' lower levels is one that France cannot escape.
that gnaws away at the lower echelons of the professional game, the
western French town of Bressuire, host to an ITF Futures event this
week, found itself caught up in the sport's latest controversy following
the arrest of two would-be participants.
"Of course we speak
about Bressuire a bit more now," says a disgruntled volunteer who works
at the tennis club in this town of around 20 000 residents, south-east
Two Frenchmen, aged 21 and 25, were detained on Tuesday as
part of a Belgian investigation. They had been due to compete in the
doubles, and are suspected of taking "money in exchange for losing a
set" at certain events between 2015 and 2018, according to French sports
It's a depressing, yet all too regular
occurrence in a sport where elite players are handsomely paid but those
in the lower echelons of the game can struggle to make ends meet.
year, the Independent Review Panel detailed a "tsunami" of match-fixing
plaguing lower-level events, while Spanish police last week dismantled a
gang that allegedly fixed professional matches, detaining 15 people and
probing 68 others including players, following an official complaint by
the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).
must not throw in the towel, and continue to act against this problem
which we know cannot be solved by just one country," French Tennis
Federation (FFT) managing director Jean-Francois Vilotte told AFP.
fact there have been arrests shows that our alert systems work. But
it's never good news to learn than two Frenchmen have been arrested."
Unsurprisingly the affair is on everyone's lips around the courts in Bressuire.
as tournament directors, are not comfortable with that. It's now two,
three years that it's been worrying us. It's true that it's a scourge,"
said Pierre-Jean Drouillard, co-director of the Bressuire event.
tournaments are overseen by volunteers and winners pocket roughly €1 500, a world away from the A$4 100 000 the men's and women's singles champions will take home
An environment largely for younger players starting
out before reaching the main ATP tour, Futures event participants are
typically ranked anywhere between 250 and 500 in the world, something
akin to a Grand Slam qualifying field.
"At this level, if they're
not helped, these players lose money each year," said a Bressuire club
director, highlighting their vulnerability to nefarious betting rings.
of players tell us they know other players who have been approached to
lose a set for money, but they find it difficult to talk about it," said
Drouillard. No player as yet has come to talk about it in Bressuire.
"They're definitely afraid."
The FFT is trying to stem the problem.
"It's a concern to us and we're dealing with it," said vice-president Alain Moreau.
putting in place domestic rules limiting the use of mobile phones on
courts, we have introduced badges for these tournaments, with areas
reserved for players so they can't be approached or harassed."
"court-siders", who transmit real-time match updates to gambling
syndicates, often quicker than TV or betting companies receive the data,
proliferate the stands at these lesser events.
discrete and often foreigners "coming from countries from the East",
according to a club official, these cunning operators can enable
gamblers to get an edge over their rivals.
"They're on their
phones all the time and sending information. Since the start of the week
we have spotted and chucked out seven of them, but they come back, we
can't ban them," explained Moreau.